Women's Basketball

Tyson-Thomas, Syracuse look to continue strong start against Wagner

Sam Maller | Asst. Photo Editor

Carmen Tyson-Thomas comes off the bench for the Orange and ranks second on the team with 11.9 points per game and third with 5.3 rebounds per game.

Carmen Tyson-Thomas is still adjusting to her role.

It doesn’t matter that she’s come off the bench in two of her three seasons at Syracuse. It still takes some getting used to.

“It’s kind of tough with the expectation,” Tyson-Thomas said. “I would like to be starting. To embrace it is a bigger step; it’s a bigger role, so I guess outside of it all I’m adjusting. It’s been two years now, so I’m still adjusting.”

First instinct would have pegged Tyson-Thomas as a starter for the 2012-13 season. The guard started 29 of 37 games last season and was one of just three Orange players to average double-digit scoring and play more than 30 minutes per game. But with the arrival of the best freshman class in SU history, the senior headed back to the bench as three rookies entered the starting lineup.

Still, Tyson-Thomas has been invaluable during Syracuse’s start to the season. Tyson-Thomas looks to keep the Orange’s (7-1) strong start going as SU faces Wagner (2-4) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

Despite coming off the bench, Tyson-Thomas ranks second on the team with 11.9 points per game and third with 5.3 rebounds per game.

“Carmen could easily be a starter, without a doubt,” Syracuse center Kayla Alexander said. “She’s a talented player. She can knock down shots. … She is very athletic, she can shoot the outside shot, she can get in there and do a pull up jumper, she attacks, so she can do a lot for our team.”

Tyson-Thomas’ ability to do it all was on full display during the Orange’s 80-39 victory over St. Joseph’s. Alexander called it “the Carmen show” as the guard dominated all facets of the game.

Tyson-Thomas led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. The guard also got it done on the boards, hauling in a game-high 11 rebounds.

“She killed it that game,” Alexander said. “She was incredible.”

It’s performances like that one that separate her from a typical bench player. She’s led the Orange in scoring twice this season and has been held to single digits just twice as well. Nights where she takes over a game — like she did against the Hawks — prove that she’s more than just a bench player for SU.

“She’s obviously a great player that can obviously start, and has started,” Syracuse guard Elashier Hall said. “But it’s great that she’s embraced the role as sixth man.

“I mean obviously she could win sixth-man award right now.”

Alexander has been the Orange’s most valuable player so far in this young season, but head coach Quentin Hillsman points to Tyson-Thomas’ willingness to come off the bench as what could be the difference this season for SU.

Tyson-Thomas was arguably Syracuse’s third-best player last year, after Alexander and Iasia Hemingway. Now she brings that complete skill set off the bench for a second unit that has dominated so far.

“She’s a very important part of our puzzle and she can play almost four positions for us,” Hillsman said. “So her versatility allows her to come off the bench and play every position.”

She’s still adjusting, but she’s becoming more and more comfortable with her bench role.

Her 22.1 minutes per game rank fifth on the team — the equivalent of a starter. The second team that she plays with during practice often beats the first team. When that unit gets on the court, she said they “like to kick it up a notch” and wreak havoc.

It may not be the starting role that she wants, but it’s an opportunity she’s relishing.

“We’re a team and we win together, we lose together,” Alexander said. “So I feel like at the end of the day all we want to do is win, so all of us will take our roles and do what we have to do to get our Ws.”

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